Atlas Shrugged with a twist

Ravi Shanker Kapoor |


Guernica, painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso

Ravi Shanker Kapoor

John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand’s 1957 monumental novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, pledged “to stop the motor of the world.” It was, however, Galt’s antitheses who actually did that.

Atlas Shrugged, the biggest selling novel in history, is a philosophical thriller, a genre in which few, if any, books can be found. It extolls the virtues of capitalism, freedom, and selfishness. The last one, however, has a different, noble connotation, completely different from the one used in common parlance.

Galt, the protagonist, gathers the prominent inventors and wealth creators, and organizes a strike, stopping the motor of the world.

The title of the novel comes from a Greek mythological figure, Atlas. He was a Titan holding the world on his shoulders. For Rand, he symbolized wealth creators and inventors who hold the world together, while collectivists keep making their lives miserable all the time. Two key characters of the novel, Francisco d’Anconia and Hank Rearden, discuss Atlas’ plight. The question is: what should one tell Atlas to do? D’Anconia answers, “To shrug.”

However, in real life, after 63 years of the novel’s publication, it is the men and women who peddle every idea Galt hated—collectivism, big state, dirigisme, repressed citizenry—have succeeded in carrying out the strike. They have succeeded in selling a worldwide lockdown—executed in varying degrees of severity across the globe.

Who are these men and women? First and foremost, they are the public health experts—in fact, activists rather than experts.

In this context, familiarity with O’Sullivan’s First Law would help us understand how things came to such a pass. Named after British conservative commentator and journalist John O’Sullivan, the Law, “All organizations that are not actually Rightwing will over time become Leftwing.”

After the fall of the erstwhile Soviet Union, the cradle of communism, Leftists of various hues felt orphaned, or rather deprived of the faith they had embraced for decades. Instead of self-introspecting and critically analyzing the ideology they hadn’t for decades, they became sullen and destructive. Ressentiment rather than remorse defined their psychological make-up in the wake of the global decline of communism and socialism. There is no remorse among intellectuals for having remained wedded to a criminal ideology for so long, the ideology that killed over 100 million people.

They infiltrated various institutions and organizations, ranging from the media and human rights bodies to public health bureaucracies. Academics was already dominated by postmodern or New Left thinkers.

So, today we have the situation that almost the entire public health establishment is dominated by experts who have love China; concomitantly, they are extremely critical of the politicians whose policies are oriented around liberty and capitalism, be it US President Donald Trump or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The World Health Organization is the prime example of the Leftist infiltration. Its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a socialist politician who covered up cholera deaths in his country Ethiopia, is a lackey of China’s. He is an egregious bureaucrat who should be tried for crime against humanity for selling China’s lies and thus letting lakhs of people die all over the world. He is a prominent proponent of lockdown.

Consider the case of Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College, London. He prepared a report which said that five lakh Britons and 2.2 million Americans would die because of the novel coronavirus. This provoked the British government to announce a lockdown on March 23.

This was despite the fact his projections were wide of the mark in the past. In 2005, he had predicted that bird flu could kill up to 150 million; in the period between 2003 and 2009 the global toll was just 282. In 2009, his forecast was 65,000 British deaths from the swine flu; just 457 people died in the country.

He himself revised his report on March 25, bringing down the projected fatalities to 20,000 (He was proven wrong again, as the deaths are in excess of 36,000). But the damage was done, not just to the UK but also the entire world, including India where Covid-19 had caused little damage at the time the nationwide lockdown was imposed. India still is an outlier.

The medical journal Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton and Pulitzer Award-winning science journalist and activist Laurie Garrett are also Left-leaning activists who want the size and scope of the state to increase and the liberties and rights of individuals to decrease. They are also admirers of China.

It is not just pinkish activists who purveyed lockdown; there are also capitalists who did that. Bill Gates is one of them. He even defended China’s inhuman treatment of coronavirus victims. “China did a lot of things right at the beginning, like any country where a virus first shows up,” he said.

Such people provided the moral justification to politicians to control, almost imprison us. For, to paraphrase David Horowitz, inside every politician there is a moralizer and a tyrant screaming to get out.

So, the motor of the world stopped, not because Atlas shrugged but because he was battered so badly that he could not stand. Galt’s enemies have won.

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